Skip to Content

Zoning & Subdivision


row of brightly colored houses in Nashville

Zoning is the set of rules that govern how land may be used and the development standards for all property within Nashville. Zoning is necessary to protect the community health, safety and welfare. The Planning Commission makes recommendations to the Metropolitan Council on all zone changes within Nashville and Davidson County, and the Council has final approval. Community members have opportunities for input on the underlying land use policies as those policies are being set during the community planning process; both the Planning Commission and the Metropolitan Council hold public hearings on individual zone changes. Land development and planning requirements are included in Title 17 of the Metropolitan Code.

Land restrictions outline how land can be used. The basic zoning categories are:

  • Agricultural
  • Residential
  • Institutional
  • Mixed use
  • Office
  • Commercial
  • Shopping center
  • Industrial

Those restrictions also control the types of buildings allowed on the property, how tall they can be, how far they must be set back from the street, and other development standards. If your property isn't zoned for your intended use, you may file a rezoning application at the Planning Department on the 2nd floor of the Metro Office Building located at 800 Second Ave South and we will guide you through the rezoning process.

Specific Plan (SP) Zoning and Overlays

In October 2005, the Metropolitan Council adopted Resolution RS 2005-762 establishing “Specific Plan District,” generally known as “SP,” zoning. SP refers to a new type of base zoning district, not an overlay, which is not subject to traditional zoning districts’ development standards. Under an SP zoning, design standards are established for that specific development and are written into the zone change ordinance. Developers who use SP zoning must still follow historic and redevelopment guidelines, subdivision and storm water regulations, and the goals and objectives of the General Plan.

  • The Urban Design Overlay, or “UDO,” defines a specific area and sets design standards for its development.
  • The Institutional Overlay provides development rules for specific areas but, unlike UDOs, institutional overlays work in cooperation with that area’s existing residential zoning.
  • The Contextual Overlay District is a zoning overlay that could be applied to various neighborhoods in the future. This district would limit the height and footprint of construction to a percentage of the average of the existing, surrounding structures and limit the placement of new structures to be in context with the existing structures. It also has some design requirements for driveways, parking and garage locations.
    • Neighborhoods that are interested in applying the Contextual Overlay should begin by discussing the proposed application with their Councilmember. After consensus among the property owners and Councilmember, applications can be made at the Planning Department. Applications will be evaluated against the Community Plan and consistency of the character of the area, such as height, setbacks, building footprint, etc.

Subdivision Regulations

A Subdivision is: Any land, vacant or improved, which is divided or proposed to be divided into two (2) or more lots or parcels of less than five (5) acres in size. It includes resubdivision which means a change of any approved or recorded subdivision. The Land Development and Design Division reviews subdivision applications as a technical review against the adopted Subdivision Regulations. The Regulations provide for the division of land under existing zoning entitlements. Subdivision of land does not alter or increase the allowances that a property owner has under the existing zoning.

Per Tennessee Code Annotated, the Planning Commission is charged with the adoption of Subdivision Regulations to provide for harmonious development. NashvilleNext's Community Character Manual policies identify the envisioned character of an area. That area, called a transect, includes general patterns of the built environment such as rural, suburban, urban, or downtown. The transect determines which section of the Subdivision Regulations applies to a specific application. Community Character Manual policies are not otherwise referenced during subdivision review.

The Subdivision Regulations apply throughout Nashville and Davidson County, excepting the cities of Belle Meade, Berry Hill, Forest Hills, Goodlettsville, and Oak Hill.

Details of the subdivision process, including applications, fees, permits, and zone changes are posted on our Land Development page.